Facing Longhorns gets personal for Texans like Mayfield, Murray and Hurts


Jalen Hurts is the most experienced quarterback in college football and among the most successful in the history of the game. When he takes the field for No. 6 Oklahoma on Saturday (noon ET, FOX), Hurts will play in his 48th collegiate game. He is 31-2 as a starter. He played in three national championship games at Alabama.

Until the Sooners dropped to No. 6 in Week 5 of this season — punished for the crime of taking off Week 4 — Hurts had never played for a team ranked outside the top 5.

But as long as his college football résumé is, Hurts has never played in the Red River Showdown. He has never descended that concrete ramp in the Cotton Bowl on the second Saturday in October and been coldcocked by that wall of sound.

Four decades have passed since Thomas Lott played quarterback at Oklahoma, and when Lott starts talking about playing Texas, he is 20 years old again, wearing a bandana underneath his helmet, running the wishbone for Barry Switzer and the Sooners.

“Walking down that ramp, and walking into that stadium, when you step onto that field, and that stadium erupts, there is no feeling in the world like that,” Lott said.

There’s the setting, smack in the middle of the State Fair of Texas, beneath the benevolent gaze of Big Tex.

There’s the 50-50 split of fans in the Cotton Bowl, 75,000 Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners proving what anyone who isn’t colorblind already knows: Burnt orange and crimson clash off the field, too.

There’s another characteristic unique to the Red River Showdown: So many Texans cross the border to play for Oklahoma. It is a sign of the sheer amount of football talent in Texas, a sign of the credibility that Oklahoma established after World War II and maintains to this day, from Bud Wilkinson to Chuck Fairbanks to Barry Switzer to Bob Stoops to Lincoln Riley.

For decades, Oklahoma has had more native Texans on its roster than it has had, to coin a lyric, Sooners born and Sooners bred.

Hurts, for all his experience, has never taken the field as a Texas native wearing the crimson and cream of the Longhorns’ biggest rival. Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, who grew up a Sooners fan in Austin, Texas, trying to keep his head afloat in a sea of burnt orange, said it’s “absolutely” a different experience.

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